Last month, Crooked Ladder Brewing Company opened its doors at 70 West Main Street in downtown Riverhead. The building’s brick facade sports the brewery’s name above open bay doors, inviting the passerby inside for a tasting. The tasting bar and production facility occupy the same space, so visitors can see people actually brewing what they are about to taste.

It’s amazing to see the once-shady dive bar transformed into a local microbrewery and downtown hot pot. The ambiance in the tasting room perfectly matched what was intended by the team behind Crooked Ladder when I visited back in April prior to their grand opening.

By the time I made it in to taste, Crooked Ladder had brewed seven new beers. Brewer Duffy Griffiths and partner David Wirth were working in the brewery as I tried their beer for the first time. For nine bucks, you get to taste all seven of their current releases and a keep your souvenir pint glass. The beers were understated, and although I hate the term, really drinkable. The flavor profile across the board favored a nutty, malty influence similar to an English style. Most of the beers had relatively low IBUs (International Bittering Units) compared to otherse brewing similar styles. This style leaves the door open for newcomers to craft beer, or enthusiasts just looking for mellower ales.

A couple highlights included:

Peconic Bay Pilsner (5%ABV, 22.5 IBUs)
The Pilsner pours a pale straw color with minimal head. Made with Tettnang hops, the nose had that distinct Czech/German pilsner character, with a dry grassiness showing. Crisp, clean, and extremely dry on the palate, Crooked Ladder’s Pilsner was a great rendition of the European classic. Although it would be premature to say the brewery has a “house-style” this beer seemed to fit the lighter bodied character that many of the beers had.

Sumeritis (4.5% ABV, 21 IBUs)
This summer ale, brewed with crystal hops, had the most fruit-forward aroma of all the brews. Lemon, grapefruit, and peach met me at my nose. The palate had a similar profile, with a light citrus quality. A persistent lemon zest note carried through the finish with nary a hint of wheat. The hops were evident, but in balance in this sessionable beer.

Some of the other selections I sampled were a balanced pale ale, a medium-bodied red ale, and an IPA that didn’t have quite enough hop character for my taste.

It will be interesting to see what will change and what will stay the same for this burgeoning micro-brewery.  The brewery’s neighboring restaurant Digger Odells is actually owned by the Wirths, and pours pints of their beer alongside great pub-grub.  Do yourself a favor and make a night out of visiting, eating, and drinking in downtown Riverhead.